Mission and Vision

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Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.

Bison, © Phyllis Picardi

© Phyllis Picardi

Founded in 1947, Defenders of Wildlife is a major national conservation organization focused solely on wildlife and habitat conservation and the safeguarding of biodiversity. We believe in the inherent value of wildlife and the natural world, and this singular focus defines our important niche in the environmental and conservation community and serves as the anchor for our organizational values.

Defenders’ approach is direct and straightforward - We protect and restore imperiled species throughout North America by transforming policies and institutions and promoting innovative solutions – and this approach makes a lasting difference for wildlife and its habitat:

  • On the ground at the state and local level, developing practical, innovative programs that protect and restore key species and habitats and inform our national policy work.

  • With state, national and international policy makers to secure laws and policies that protect animals and their habitats. We are widely recognized by our peers and policymakers for the effectiveness of our advocacy work, particularly with the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture and are known for being the most effective advocate for wildlife funding in the federal appropriations process.

  • In the courts establishing legal safeguards for native wildlife and fighting efforts to roll back environmental protections. We act as legal counsel on behalf of a population segment that cannot act for itself, North America’s wildlife.

Our vision: Diverse wildlife populations in North America are secure and thriving, sustained by a network of healthy lands and waters. 

What does success look like for Defenders? Our conservation vision succinctly describes the elements that define our success:

  • Diverse populations:  Our conservation efforts are targeted at the full range of vulnerable North American biodiversity, from plants to pollinators to predators. We recognize that we cannot protect any species without simultaneously protecting the diversity of wildlife and habitats on which it relies.

  • North America: While we do not set geographic boundaries on our work, we primarily focus on species of North America, including transboundary terrestrial and marine species that migrate through its waters.

  • Secure and thriving: We are working for the day when vulnerable North American species rebound to the point that they are secure — no longer threatened with rapid decline or extinction — and thriving in robust, well-distributed populations.

  • Network of healthy lands and waters: Wildlife has the greatest chance of being secure and thriving if it is supported by a transnational network of public and private lands, rivers and coastal waters, core natural areas and working landscapes.

Strategic Plan

To help attain our vision, Defenders’ strategic plan provides a framework for setting objectives and allocating resources across the organization. This strategic approach prioritizes long-term solutions with measurable results to help ensure that Defenders is an effective voice for wildlife conservation. Clearly defining our vision and focusing our resources will help us to better ensure that North America’s spectacular wild animals and habitats will be here for the next generation.